Miami Looks To Earn Respect As Everyone Will Take Notice: What To Watch For
Miami Gardens, FLA — The No.10 Miami Hurricanes (7-0, 5-0 ACC), has not earned the respect of the CFP Committee thus far. Only one team in a Power-5 conference the Canes have beaten so far has a winning record (Georgia Tech, 4-3). Not to mention the nail-biting victories over sub-par teams such as Florida State, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, and North Carolina.
All of that will start to change with a victory over Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1 ACC), in primetime Saturday night on ABC. The outcome of Saturday’s Matchup will determine the ACC Coastal Champion. Miami has yet to win an ACC Championship since joining the conference in 2004; The Hokies have won 4 ACC Championships in that same time frame.
Virginia Tech will look to end Miami’s nation-leading 12 game win streak as they travel to Hard Rock Stadium, hopefully, sold out.
“There’s a reason why they’re one of the best teams in America,” Miami head coach Mark Richt said. “We’re looking forward to our fans to be there, loud and proud. I know our students, our band, and our fan base will be there in big numbers and do a great job for us when they have the ball especially.”
Classic Quarterback Duel
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is the class of the ACC when it comes to quarterbacks. However, Miami quarterback Malik Rosier and Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson, are making names for themselves with their eerie similar playing styles.
Both quarterbacks are first-year starters, protect the football fairly well, run when they have to and have exceeded expectations coming into the season. The opposing defenses are fierce and will get their shots at each quarterback. It will be interesting to see which quarterback adjusts quicker to the game and rise to the occasion.
Rosier has had ample experience in navigating the Canes to close victories via game-winning drives or ball control. How will he fare against the Hokies stifling defense?
Jackson has been a pleasant surprise as the redshirt freshman and has broken almost all Virginia Tech freshman quarterback records with three games left. Can he stay calm on the road, in his biggest game to date?
How Will Miami Start?
The Hurricanes cannot afford another slow start on Saturday night. Seems like, the offense can’t figure it out in the first half of games this season. As a result, the Canes average four points in the first quarter and 9.4 points in first half of ACC games.
The Hokies bring their top-ten defense to Hard Rock Stadium, led by defensive coordinator Bud Foster. At the very least, Miami must preserve drives and get field goals as they find their groove. If not, it’s probably going to be a long night for the Hurricanes.
Offensive Consistency from Miami
Consistency from the Canes offensive unit has hindered Miami from scoring more often, especially early in games. Richt, who doubles as the play caller for Miami, will have his hands full with Foster’s defense
The Hokies defense is without question the most robust unit the Hurricanes will face thus far. Most noteworthy, Virginia Tech ranks second in the nation in the points per game (11.5), ninth in total yards (285), 13th in run defense (110.8), and 14th in pass defense (173.8).
Richt will look to sophomore running back Travis Homer to provide balance. Homer is hoping to bounce back from last week’s win over North Carolina with 16 carries for 40 yards. Homer will get some more targets than usual Saturday night as the Hokies love to bring pressure, trying to make Rosier throw the ball before he wants to.
Coming off his first 100-yard game, true freshman receiver Jeff Thomas will get involved.
“Midway through the deal, we decided that we had to get him on the edge,” Richt said on the Jose Rose Show. “We need his speed out there.”
Miami’s Test on Defense
Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is a superhero of change, due to game planning for the different types of offenses that have similar characteristics, week-to-week.
“You have to match the tempo. You’ve got to match all the motions. You’ve got to match all the eye deception, a lot of misdirection in their offense. It’s almost similar to a Georgia Tech,” said Diaz of the Hokies offense.
Virginia Tech will look to establish the run early with running back Travon MacMillian; Miami had struggled at times in during the season stopping the run. If the run game gets going, Jackson will look to senior receiver Cam Phillips. Phillips holds the Hokies record for most receptions in a career while catching a pass in 35 straight games.
It is crucial that Miami brings out the “Turnover Chain” Saturday night, Virginia Tech does a great job of protecting the ball. The key is Miami controlling the line of scrimmage and harassing Jackson, consequently, making him force throws to the Canes opportunistic secondary.
Prediction – This will be a low scoring defensive battle, every possession will matter even if it doesn’t result in points. In addition, whoever takes care of the ball and sustains drives consistently, will win.
Miami 23 – Virginia Tech 18